The Stuff of Life
Last Updated on July 31, 2020 by Marc-Antoni
Digging Around for a Better Understanding
This fascinating and informative documentary explores the current state, and profound significance, of our planet’s soil. The dirt that so many of us take for granted, is actually integral to terrestrial life. The film highlights the fundamental importance of this surprisingly complex and limited resource. Like so much of nature, it exists within a careful balance. We are currently threatening that balance with the rampant destruction.
In seeking to manipulate the soil, and dominate its output, humans are altering its chemical composition. This is happening through both intended & unintended means. One the one hand, we are injecting copious amounts of petrol-based chemicals & poisons to eradicate pests and “fertilize” the land. On the other, we are stripping away what nutrients we can from the soil, in order to maximize output and profits.
These practices have very real & detrimental consequences. The bugs are not the only ones being choked out and poisoned. The health of agricultural workers, as well as that of the soil itself, are suffering the impact. This doc shares with audiences what those who live and work with the soil have observed.
Once again the perpetrators of this environmental demolition are hubris and greed. Although such practices may have begun from good intentions (with the benefit of the doubt), the results are far from. In fact, the filmmakers make it a point to remind viewers that so many of these chemicals currently in use for agriculture, actually originated in war as a means of sowing death.
Turns out they still work that way. The herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers are having a devastating effect on the land. Only it doesn’t stop there, as it ultimately gets into the air, water, animals, and ourselves.
Indeed, the natural world is a complex network. There are serious and severe repercussions to the short term gains received by these artificial injections. As Rachel Carson highlighted so many years ago,
“We spray our elm trees and the following springs are silent of robin song—not because we sprayed the robins directly, but because the poison traveled…”Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)
We may not have known enough before, but we do know better now. Unfortunately corporate greed helps keep these chemicals flowing.
It is a common misconception that these artificial substances are now needed to sustain the vast human population (click HERE for more on that). This is simply not true, and is consciously perpetuated by the colossal agri-chem companies.
The top five include Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and Dupont, BASF, and Monsanto (although Bayer is now looking to acquire Monsanto). These multi-billion dollar companies are highly motivated to sell their products to farmers around the world, and to keep selling them on a yearly (seasonal) basis. Farmers are strongly encouraged to try out these chemicals and see their crop yields increase.
In Defense of Dirt
What is less advertised however, is the impact these products have on the farmers, growers, and ultimately the soil itself (see What’s Eating the Planet?). The health of those working the fields is adversely affected by the stuff that they’re spraying. This is proven time and again, with hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and countless others sickened.
So we know what it does to people. But what of the soil? How is it really impacted, and should we even care? Turns out, if we want to continue harvesting from the earth, we really do! The film will offer additional insight, but in a nutshell, here it is. If we keep doing this to the dirt, the soil will be stripped of its nutrients and will require further chemical injections.
Dirt! Continues Carson’s Work
The use of all these destructive chemicals is therefore a profitable self-perpetuating scheme for the big agri-chem companies. They are however incredibly harmful for pretty much everyone else. Compare this instead with organic farming practices. When a sustainable balance is achieved, organic farming can continue indefinitely.
So over the long term, it’s abundantly clear that organic agriculture wins out. This means that we can still feed the planet, while simultaneously protecting our soil. In fact, we’re going to need to ensure that we do protect the dirt, if we want to protect life on earth. The film does a great job explaining this. It comes across as natural and important extension of Rachel Carson’s work. We must continue to respect the systems that support us, and refrain from upending the delicate balance. Watch the film when you can!